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Because Stuff Happens Here (And You Might Just Be There To See It)

Ten eyewitnesses remember.

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I Was There When...


April 14
Molly the Cat was rescued amid a media frenzy after two weeks behind the wall of the Myers of Keswick deli on Hudson Street.

I took out some bricks, put my head in the hole, shined the flashlight in, and saw her eyes. She was about fifteen to twenty feet away from me, twelve or thirteen feet in the air, stuck in a bunch of garbage. I took a tape measure and fished around until I hit her. Then I went knocking out the bricks around her. I’d guess I was working on the wall for another two or three hours, and once I got close enough, I grabbed her by the back of the legs and pulled her through. When I turned around, it felt like I was in a stadium. I couldn’t believe how many people were there.
—Kevin Clifford, 34, “sandhog” (an underground construction specialist, more or less) and feline-rescue volunteer

May 3
A taxi knocked James Gandolfini off his Vespa.

I work at 395 Hudson—the Hot 97 building. It’s quite the eventful corner. I was standing outside drinking coffee when the cab hit the Vespa. There was a loud crunch. The cabbie came out saying, “Oh, no, I’m sorry,” and helped pull the guy off the ground, and when he got up you could see who it was. Everyone started freaking out. He was very understanding, given that he had just had his ass knocked off a Vespa, and had about twenty people hollering and taking pictures of him. I tried to take one and put it online, but he just looked like a blob in the distance.
—David Carucci, 35, financial services executive


May 3
A still-unidentified representative of a still-unknown buyer purchased Picasso’s Dora Maar for an auction-record $95 million at Sotheby’s.

I was sitting behind him; everyone thought I bought it because I was in the pictures. He looked like the new James Bond—big hands, big, bony fists. His nose was broken. When the Picasso came up, he started waving his arms. Tobias [Meyer, auctioneer] was looking around for help, because he didn’t know who he was. After he bought a Chagall, I told him, “Congratulations,” but he didn’t understand. He paid too much for the Picasso. But he didn’t have any concept of money. He didn’t even look nervous. He just had a blank stare on his face.
—Laszlo von Vertes, 55, co-owner of Salis & Vertes galleries in Austria and Switzerland


June 14
Rufus Wainwright reenacted Judy Garland’s legendary 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall.

I came with a couple of friends from San Francisco and some other Rufus fans from L.A. and Pennsylvania. The crowd was just beside itself with excitement. I decided to dress sort of vintage formal, so I had a vintage shirt with ruffles on it and a silver tuxedo—Jimmy Fallon came up and said hi to me as if he knew me and told me I looked fabulous. He’s so, so cute. The audience was filled with both Judy-philes and Rufus-philes, but everyone embraced him. Rufus was amazing. To nail those 29 songs. During the medley, when he sang “The Trolley Song,” it was one of the gayest moments I’d ever experienced. I felt like a harp was playing in my heart.
—Richard Goldman, 57, retired physician’s assistant


September 25
The Metropolitan Opera live-broadcast its performance of Madama Butterfly in Times Square.

We thought we’d see part of it and go get dinner. I was running from work; we were both starving. But it was so much more fun than we’d imagined. Something about the juxtaposition of noise and advertising with the elegance of the opera was really cool—although there were a couple guys making a lot of noise disassembling something in the traffic island during the second or third act. After seeing the show, we decided we needed to go to the Met and that we needed to do it that week. So that Thursday we went to see a performance of Idomeneo. We felt like we’d been lifted out of Times Square into the real thing.
—Evan Tschirhart, 25, consultant, with Marie O’Reilly, 22, student


October 18
Richard Easton passed out onstage after suffering an arrhythmia during a preview of The Coast of Utopia.

Martha Plimpton: We heard a very loud thud. And we turned and Richard was unconscious and having trouble breathing. I yelled—I never thought I would do this in my life—“Is there a doctor in the house?” But there was no response.

Ethan Hawke: It took everyone a long time to realize we had stopped acting. Martha asking for a doctor was like asking the New York Giants, “Is anyone an athlete?” Like half of Lincoln Center is a doctor, but nobody moved!

Plimpton: Will, a stagehand, came out from the wings and said, “I know CPR.” As soon as he started on Richard, six or seven people came up from the house saying, “I’m a doctor, I’m an EMT, I’m a this, I’m a that.” Ethan and I went into the stairwell and prayed. Finally, one of our stage managers came back and said they’d got a pulse.

Richard Easton: I took three weeks off. My face was bruised and my ribs were sore; I’d cracked three in CPR. You should see the size of the stagehand who jumped on me!
—Richard Easton, 73, Ethan Hawke, 36, Martha Plimpton, 36, actors


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